Australia — The Victorian Premier John Brumby says tomorrow’s weather forecast poses the greatest fire danger in the state’s history and people should be prepared.
“Tomorrow we’re going to have unbelievably high temperatures and we’re also going to have unbelievably high winds,” he said.
“We’ve gone through now a couple of months across the state where there’s basically been no rain since mid-December.
“We’ve got a state which is just tinder dry.”
Planning is well underway to deal with tomorrow’s extreme bushfire conditions.
Fire authorities say conditions are the driest they have been since the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and the Country Fire Association (CFA) say the fire danger in the Otway Ranges tomorrow will be extreme and they are concerned about a fire burning in the Bunyip State Forest, south-east of Melbourne.
The DSE’s acting Otway district coordinator David Rourke says a huge number of resources are on standby, ready to respond to a blaze.
“We’re well planned in case we do get a fire,” he said.
“We’ve been working very closely with the CFA, police, local government over the last few days to pre-plan and be ready for any fire occurrence that might come our way.”
Race against time
More than 100 firefighters – with water bombing aircraft and bulldozers – are already racing against time on a fire in West Gippsland.
A fire burning five kilometres north of Tonimbuk has now burnt more than 120 hectares and is expected to break containment lines tomorrow.
Incident controller Chris Hardman is warning the communities of Labertouche, Tonimbuk, Bunyip, Drouin West, Jindivick, and Longwarry to be on high alert.
He says residents will be told they must activate their bushfire plans immediately at an emergency meeting to get underway shortly.
“What we’ll be doing is looking at the worse case scenario, and presenting that information to the community at those meetings,” Mr Hardman said.
“People who live in this area in our experience have got good bushfire survival plans, and what they need to do is be thinking about those for Saturday, and enacting those early.”
Police will meet in Gippsland’s Latrobe Valley shortly to announce a new taskforce to investigate last week’s deliberately lit bushfires.
A 6,500 hectare blaze in the Strzelecki Ranges destroyed 30 homes, more than 80 sheds and 30 kilometres of fencing.
Detectives believe the fires were deliberately lit and the State Government has announced a $100,000 reward for information.
Police are also releasing an image this afternoon of a vehicle that may have links to the Gippsland fires.
‘Ignore water restrictions’
The Victorian Government says people can ignore water consumption targets if they need to during the heat.
It says it would be unrealistic to expect people to use just 155 litres of water tomorrow.
The Water Minister Tim Holding says people should make their health the priority.
“People need to obviously run their air-conditioning and look after their health and wellbeing, and they need to remain well hydrated.
“So while we reiterate the messages around Target 155 and the importance of people reducing their water consumption, we obviously expect people, and we want people, to be sensible.”
Mr Kelly says some restraint is still necessary.
“If you have to take a couple of showers then make sure they are as short as possible,” he said.
“Make sure you’re using a swimming pool cover … don’t drown your plants with love.
“Turn-off the automatic sprinkler systems this week because we shouldn’t need them – the ones that run over night.”
Community workers fear for the wellbeing of homeless people during the continuing heat.
Worker Melanie Raymond says high temperatures have worse effects than those in the depths of winter.
She says people can help by donating basic items such as bottled water to shelters.
“It’s very simple things like water, sunscreen, lip balm – the ability to have a cold shower and cool off,” Ms Raymond said.
“Homeless people are very high risk of dehydration and exhaustion on days like this.”